How PR Propelled Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart was a publicist’s dream: for the aviatrix, the sky was truly the limit when it came to pushing her career…not to mention the fact that she looked like a movie star. (Yes, this is her pilot’s license photo!)
George Putnam, Earhart’s publicist (and eventual husband), recognized her PR potential and helped propel Earhart’s career into other uncharted territories. Signed on in 1928, one of the first things Putnam convinced his new client to do was an ad for Lucky Strike cigarettes. She was reluctant but eventually acquiesced, and immediately got buzz. It wasn’t all positive, either. Many felt it was out of character (see the note jotted at the top of this ad “Is this the face of a lady? What price glory!”) and it cost her a columnist gig at a prominent magazine. However, it did get people talking even more about the sky queen, who landed as the Aviation Editor for Cosmopolitan magazine.
Further maximizing her popularity and her flying funds, Earhart expanded from product endorsement to entrepreneurialism. In the early 1930s, she infused her persona into her products, designing women’s sportswear made from parachute silk, wing nuts and ball bearings. She even made lightweight luggage for women, again bringing together her aeronautic career and her audience, as Putnam continued to help guide his client and grow her reputation.
Of course, Earhart’s career included many other significant achievements -– best-selling author, faculty member at Purdue U, Equal Rights Amendment supporter, etc. Today, 75 years after her disappearance, we remain fascinated by this woman who broke so many barriers…and who saw the value in a good publicist to help parlay her greatness into even greaterness.